One day, I’ll understand how Cliff Lee has managed to start the season 6-0 with an ERA of 0.81. I’ll one day understand how opposing hitters have managed just 25 hits off Lee in 44.1 innings. I know the walks are key; he has issued only two this year. But his stuff just doesn’t scream out untouchable success.
Tonight, I watched from the third deck as Cliff Lee put on something of a strike-throwing clinic. He threw 103 pitches, 76 of them for strikes, and the Yanks found themselves in few three-ball counts tonight. What he did, though, was to keep the Yankeess off balance by changing speeds. None of his stuff is overpowering; his pitches range from about 79 to 92 miles per hour. But he pounded the zone and kept the Yankees hitters guessing.
Or at least, I think that’s what he did. Part of me thinks that the Yanks probably should have crushed Cliff Lee. But the unstoppable force that is Cliff Lee just keeps rolling along. On a night like tonight, you just have to tip your cap to Lee and hope that the Yanks end their 14-inning scoreless drought early in this afternoon’s game.
Now, instead of dwelling further on this loss, let me regale you with a tale from the stadium tonight. Every night, after the second inning or so, a lucky fan gets to answer a fairly easy Yankee trivia question on the DiamondVision screen. It’s long been my family’s theory that the people with the giant cards and the announcer do everything in their power to make sure the contestant gets the answer right. For example, on Ron Guidry Day, Ron Guidry was probably the answer to the trivia question. Other times, the announcer will go, “Is it A, Beeeeeeeeeeeee, C or D?” drawing out the B to the point of absurdity.
Tonight’s trivia question: Who threw the last Yankee perfect game? Was it: A. David Wells; B. David Cone; C. Don Larsen; or D. Jim Abbott? The scoreboard announcer then noted that, as a hint, the answer was in the stadium, and then they flashed on David Cone sitting in the YES broadcast booth.
The contestant picked the card for A. Not only would any fan know that David Cone’s perfect game in 1999 was more recent than Wells’ 1998 effort, but anyone with half a brain could have made the visual connection between David Cone in the broadcast booth and the picture of David Cone on the scoreboard.
When the contestant go it wrong — and it takes some skill to actually get the answer wrong — the scoreboard announcer seemed a little shocked. He amusingly urged the guy to get glasses and thanked him for playing. As the crowd booed the clueless for getting the answer wrong, I laughed at the absurdity of it all. It was one funny moment during an otherwise dreary performance by the Yankee offense.
It’s reached the point where I’m starting to think that Torre’s bringing Scott Proctor into 10-0 games just to fuck with us.
Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Charlotte)
Brett Gardner: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – Chad Jennings said it was a classic fast guy double – bloop over the third basemen’s head that he ran into extra bases
Alberto Gonzalez & Eric Duncan: both 1 for 4, 1 RBI
Jason Lane & Justin Christian: both 0 for 3, 1 BB – Lane K’ed twice … Christian was picked off first
Greg Porter & Chris Stewart: both 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB – Porter hit a solo jack & K’ed … Stewart doubled & committed a throwing error
Steven “don’t call me” White: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 6-10 GB/FB
Billy Traber: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K – the 4 outs came against lefties … the two hits came off of righties
Scott Patterson: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K – 1.54 WHIP this year after a 0.78 WHIP last year
Chien-Ming Wang gets another start following a Yankees loss, a situation in which the team is 27-7 in the last 34 tries. He struck out nine last time against the Indians. Here’s to hoping he has them just as off kilter tonight.
Despite his beautiful opposite-field double last night, Jason Giambi sits against lefty Cliff Lee. It’s not so much that Lee is 5-0 with an ERA under 1.00. It’s that lefties are 5 for 41 against him this season. Damon, Abreu, Matsui, and Cano all get the nod, though.
Our cleanup hitter, once again, is on the interstate. Yes, it’s a terribly small sample size — 27 plate appearances — but Shelley has just one extra base hit all season. I understand the desire to split up the lefties in the lineup. But at this point — and no one ever thought I’d say this — you’re better off moving Melky into that spot.
And on the mound, number forty, Chien-Ming Wang
According to PeteAbe, A-Rod could be a week away from rejoining the Yankees. Right now, the Yanks hope to ship A-Rod and his strained quad down to Tampa tomorrow. He’ll workout at the Yankees’ complex over the weekend and test his leg in games on Monday and Tuesday before hopefully rejoining the Yankees in Tampa on Wednesday. Sounds good to me. · (1) ·
We already know that 2008 All Star Game tickets are going to be the most expensive ever. Today, we can see just how much the Yanks, MLB and the various businesses involved are going to capitalize on New York’s Mid-Summer Classic. Maury Brown’s Biz of Baseball site notes that the 2008 ASG will be the largest revenue-making All Star Game in baseball history. Ticket prices are off the charts for everything from the Fan Fest to the Derby to the game itself; the networks are selling out their ad inventory for levels rarely seen in baseball; and a recent StubHub deal saw field level seats go for $14,500 each. Somewhere, the U.S. economy is struggling, but baseball in New York is doing some brisk business. · (3) ·
This is usually Mike’s department, but I don’t see him online at the moment, so I’m going to wrap up this piece by the indispensable Chad Jennings. While his job is to cover the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees, he does a stupendous job of talking to guys like Nardi Contreras and Mark Newman, providing updates from the entire Yankees farm system. While you can find the full list of updates at his site, here’s the abridged version.
Humberto Sanchez is on the road back, but he’s not at 45 pitches yet. Jennings explains that this is the number of pitches they want a starter to toss from a mound before getting him into a game. This suggests that at least for the time being, the Yankees will use him as a starter. We’ll see, though.
For those Chris Garcia nuts out there (I’m looking right at you, Jamal), he’s pitching today. I’m not sure where he’s pitching today, but it will be four innings or 55 pitches, whichever comes first. We’ll see if we can get the results if this start happens to be in extended spring training.
Finally, no one knows what’s up with Sean Henn. Could it be possible that no team claims him off waivers? It seems to me a team like the Giants could afford the roster spot. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
The Indians really seem to have Joba’s number. Two of his three career blown saves have come against Cleveland, and he’s surrendered more runs to the Indians than to any other team. While Joba now leads the Yanks in blown saves, we can’t exactly blame the midges for this one.
Instead tonight, we can look at the game one of two ways. The first way is the “c’est la vie” approach to baseball. Joba’s giving up a game-changing home run was bound to happen sooner or later, and as Peter Abraham wrote, the kid’s been fantastic so far. That bad night just so happened to be tonight. That home run doesn’t diminish his accomplishments so far, and he’s still one hell of a pitcher.
Through that lens, the game of baseball takes center stage. Joba threw a fastball, and Dave Delucci beat him on his best pitch. You tip your cap to that. Through the other lens however, we can sit here behind our computer screens and keyboards and second-guess the hell out of this one.
In this light, Joba is certainly the one to shoulder the blame for the loss. But Joe Girardi could draw some negative credit too. One could criticize Girardi for keeping Joba on the bench since May 2. Prior to tonight, he had thrown just one inning since April 28, and Joba is used to getting the regular work of a starter. Maybe he was shaky because he hadn’t thrown much later, but who really knows?
So when a one-run lead rolled around, Joba was less than sharp. Prior to the big three-run blow, he had given up a hit and a walk, and he had uncharacteristically thrown more balls than strikes. As he put it, “I was just kind of out of whack out there. You’re not always going to be perfect.”
So with two on and two out in the bottom of the 8th of a one-run game and the middle of the lineup, albeit in the form of a pinch hitter, at bat, the time was ripe for the Yankee manager to turn the game over to the best closer of all time. Joba didn’t have it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If ever there was a tense save situation, it was then.
To further this second-guess to end all second guesses is the fact that Joba, for all the hype and attention, has thrown just 125 professional innings and 88 of those were at the Minor League level. He is, in other words, a rookie. Yes, he is a rookie filled with poise and facing the prospects of a very bright career, but he is a rookie nonetheless. Had Kyle Farnsworth been on the mound in the same situation, Rivera would have entered the game in the eighth.
But Joba is Joba, and he carries around a reputation of invincibility. He had yet to give up a run at Yankee Stadium, and there was no reason to think that Dave Delucci would be the one to get to him. He had thrived in these situations before, and logic would dictate keeping him in.
But fate has a funny way of intervening. Things unfolded as they did; Dave Delucci hit that home run; and the Yanks went home losers with Joba bearing the weight of a costly blown save and a loss. Chalk that one up to fate or chalk it up to a huge second guess. Either way, that was a tough one to lose, and it’s really easy to argue that Joe Girardi was faced with a possible/impossible situation. Either choice could be the right one, and either choice could be the wrong one. It’s just not fair to second-guess this one much.
Meanwhile, the Yanks are right back at .500 with Cliff Lee and his 0.94 ERA on tap later today. But as we all know, it’s still early.
Triple-A Scranton (4-0 win over Charlotte)
Brett Gardner, Justin Christian, Jason Lane & Nick Green: all 1 for 4 – Gardner scored a run, drove one in & K’ed … Christian drove in a run & K’ed … Lane doubled & K’ed … Green scored a run
Matt Carson: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 CS
Greg Porter: 1 for 2, 1 RBI, 1 BB
IPK: 7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 HB, 5-9 GB/FB – 58 of 89 pitches were strikes (65.2%) … Chad Jennings said in an email that he fell behind 2-0 to only two batters (came back to K the first guy, gave up the lone hit to the other), and gave up only 2 hard hit balls all night – zeroes are nice, but those last two stats do a much better job of telling the story … here’s CJ’s wrap of the game … and to think some called him a failed prospect
Heath Phillips: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 4-1 GB/FB – 14 of 20 pitches were strikes (70%)
Wilson Betemit has finally recovered from the world’s worst case of conjunctivitis. Twenty-two days after landing on the DL due to a bad bout of pink eye, Betemit has been activated, and he draws the start at third base tonight.
Prior to his stint on the DL, Betemit had been swinging like a blind man. On the season, he is 2 for 13 with 1 RBI and 7 strike outs. He will assume backup infield duties, splitting time with Morgan Ensberg at third while A-Rod is out
and potentially Alberto Gonzalez if the Former Attorney General isn’t sent down. Gonzalez, the Yanks’ young defensive whiz, has been sent back to Scranton.
I have to believe that the Yanks may try to move Betemit at some point this season. They could get back some pretty decent returns and seem to have better fielding options in the system. If Betemit hits, he is a valuable asset to the team; if he doesn, his value comes via a trade.
On the pitching front, Andy Pettitte takes the mound in search of a win. His last two starts have been rather uninspiring. He’s thrown 11 innings, surrendering nine earned runs on 15 hits — four of which were of the home run variety — while striking out six and walking four. A strong start would do the Yankee rotation wonders, and with a rested bullpen, Pettitte really just needs to get through five or six today.
The Yankees will face Fausto Carmona for the first time since the ALDS when Carmona thoroughly shut down the Yanks. On the surface, Carmona has pretty good numbers; he’s 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA. But — and this is a big but — he’s allowed 34 hits and 26 walks while striking out just 13 in 34.2 innings. A pitcher cannot succeed for long with a 1.73 WHIP. Will the hot Yankee offense finally break Carmona?
Game Notes: Get ready for some more A-Rod fun. It seems that like most human males, A-Rod couldn’t stomach watching his wife give birth and has thus earned the nickname Faint-Rod. The AP — the nation’s most respected newswire service — determined that this story was somehow news. What a disgrace.
Text messaging can be an awesome thing. it’s how Chad Jennings has kept up on Alan Horne’s rehab. The latest word is that he’s set to throw from a mound tomorrow and then again on Saturday. If all goes well, he’ll face live hitters a week from today, probably in extended spring training. He could join the Scranton rotation shortly after that, but we can’t be certain. It appears for now, though, that he’s on the road back. · (1) ·